Welcome to The Incompetent Cook, a cooking blog with a difference.
Booktopia’s Andrew Cattanach will road test a new cookbook each week, picking a starter, a main, and a desert to cook.
He’ll report back on how the dishes fared in his severely unskilled hands.
This week’s challenge for The Incompetent Cook….
Country Chicken Soup
Self-Saucing Sticky Date Pudding
As an incompetent cook, the slow cooker that sits in my cupboard serves as little more than a show of my mother’s blind optimism that her son will one day learn to cook for himself. But the previously unused device proved the perfect companion as I set about road testing Sally Wise’s new book The Complete Slow Cooker.
It’s a beautiful, simple cookbook. Few pictures, and straightforward instructions. My first task would be making the Country Chicken Soup. Most of the ingredients I already had at the bottom of the fridge, standards like carrot, onion, sweet potato, celery. Add to this a kilo of chicken drumsticks and some chicken stock, and I’m done.
After saying farewell to the chicken skin (sad to see the best part go), all the ingredients went into the slow cooker. Lid on. Forget. Timer sounds. Remember. 4 hours and I was left with a ridiculous amount of chicken soup, the word chunky doesn’t even cover it. I lifted one of the legs out of the pot and the meat literally dripped off it. It was a great start, and after not burning anything on my first attempt, I felt like a world beater.
Ribs. A word that sends men and dry cleaners crazy. The recipe called for nothing but a selection of common everyday sauces, as if knowing that the extent of my previous journeys to the gourmet world involved mustard and tomato sauce on my sausage sandwich. Unbelievably I had everything in my fridge or cupboard, and after a short dash to my local butchers I had a rack of ribs coated in my special sauce in minutes.
And so into the slow cooker they went and I got on with my day which consisted largely of sleep. The slow cooker was more productive than I, slowly bubbling in the corner of the kitchen to the sound of my slumber.
After the prescribed minimum of 5 hours, I gave in to temptation and lifted the lid. The heavenly scent that hit my face was equal parts deliciousness and pure eroticism. The meat had soaked up nearly all the sauce and was left hanging on the bone, begging you to peel it off and get stuck in. I cooked a batch of fries to go with them (I’m sure you can put vegetables with them, but anybody that knows me knows that simply isn’t an option I’m comfortable with). The ribs made four huge serves and were divine, equal to anything you’d go out for.
As I flicked through the delicate pages of the book, my eyes were drawn to an old favourite. The Sticky Date Pudding. I once tried to make one. I never have since. You do the math.
But it all seemed too easy. If anything, a sense of paranoia set in.
Take dates, flour, sugar, milk.
Put in Slow Cooker.
Take water, brown sugar, butter.
Ridiculously easy. I scanned the page for words like julienne, temper or irradiate, but found nothing of the sort.
And after 2.5 hours of eating ribs and pottering aimlessly around the house, the lid was ready to be lifted.
And it was a triumph. It was moist. It was huge. It was self-saucing. It was delicious. Andrew 1 – Sticky Date Pudding 1, and with the ease of this recipe the next battle will be very soon.
With clear concise instructions and ingredients that most of us have lying around in the kitchen, I can’t wait to get the slow cooker out and have another run at more meals.
The Complete Slow Cooker is perfect for the winter months and for anyone who loves to eat as much as cook. And with only one pot to clean, all the recipes are sensational for the whole family or someone from Booktopia who enjoys overeating and not washing dishes. Whoever that may be.
Andrew Cattanach is a regular contributor to The Booktopia Blog. His hobbies include being scared of spiders and talking during movies. One day, he will be a better cook.
You can follow his ramblings on twitter at @andrew__cat
About the Contributor
Andrew Cattanach is a regular contributor to The Booktopia Blog. He has been shortlisted for The Age Short Story Prize and was named a finalist for the 2015 Young Bookseller of the Year Award. He enjoys reading, writing and sleeping, though finds it difficult to do them all at once.
Follow Andrew: Twitter